So you’ve decided to pursue a coding bootcamp. All that it takes is a cursory review of Quora, Reddit, or even here on Course Report, and the uninitiated can locate a range of opinions on almost every bootcamp in existence. The key point to remember is that your reasons for beginning your coding journey are yours. Let your goals and background be the filter in which you read this post or any other post about joining a coding bootcamp. I will only attempt to tell you my experiences with the hope that it will help you navigate a path towards making the right decision for yourself. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Interest
My interest in development started almost 8 years ago while working for a tech division of the chamber of commerce where I lived. After a lengthy interview process I was hired as the Director of Business Development. My first assignment was to lead a $40K website redesign by taking the desires of the staff and 30+ board members to a local dev team who performed the work. I remember being amazed by the process in which they translated real world problems into digital solutions that even the average person could read and understand. Later, I realized I was hooked, so when the decision to find a brand new career fell in my lap, I knew the time was right to transition from business development to software development.
Step 2: Research
Like many of you, I turned to Google to begin my research into a new coding career. Thankfully, I came across a number of articles that immediately peaked my interest. For me, it was imperative that I worked to solve real world problems while being compensated enough to eliminate outstanding debts and in the end creating personal financial freedom. I found all of these things in coding.
Early in my research efforts I came across two main sources that guided me through my path of selecting a coding bootcamp: Course Report and Quora. I won’t go into an in-depth analysis of these tools but I will say that it is important to spend time both reading and interacting on these forums for a new coder to make an educated decision about where to attend coding bootcamp. I used Course Report to parse data about the features of coding schools. Quora was perfect for asking and reading user questions about specific schools.
Step 3: Applications & Interviews
Because I live in the Bay Area, I focused most of my attention on schools in and around Silicon Valley, but also considered a few schools outside of the area. I applied to 16 schools, received 5 acceptances, and was turned down by 2. Tw other schools closed before I could complete the process, and I left 7 applications ‘on the table’ once I had made my final decision. I can say that the interview portion of the process was not nearly as intimidating as I had expected. For the most part, every interviewer was kind and took special care to understand the level of knowledge I had coming into bootcamp, and catered the interview according to my level. Looking back, I realize that what good bootcamps really want in an interview is to understand what style of learner you are, in order to determine if you will be a good fit for their respective program.
This was the first school that I was accepted to and provided me with a much needed boost of confidence. Early in my research phase, I was contemplating learning mobile development mainly because I have a couple of iPhone app ideas bouncing around in my head. Overall I had a great experience with Mobile Makers. Their admissions director (Craig) reached out to me via phone and email a few times, and we had very productive conversations. However I did notice that most of the students at the school seemed to be younger, right out of college, and that was a deterrent for me.
When I applied to General Assembly, I expected it to be a corporate, stodgy learning environment. Honestly, I only applied to get the experience of going through the application process. Being new to coding, I decided to attend an open house the day before my tech interview. This proved to be a fantastic decision. From the minute I walked into GA offices it felt right. The open house was in the evening while other classes were taking place in the facility. I noticed a wide range of diversity (race, gender, assumed class, age etc.) present in the cohort. Every person on staff was warm and inviting. During my technical interview the next morning, I met with the admissions staff and a couple of the actual instructors. GA was the only school where I had to perform a white board challenge. I must have passed it, because I got an acceptance from them!
I accepted the Coding House offer for reasons that I state at the end of this post.
Dev Bootcamp was one of my earlier applications, and I was in no way prepared to pass it. After applying online, I received an email to schedule the technical interview with Dana from their New York office. During the Skype interview I answered a few coding problems, but looking back, I failed to convey my ability to logically process the challenges. They were right to decline my participation with their school at that time.
This denial was the most shocking and shook my confidence a bit. TA is a new school focused on attracting underrepresented minorities. When I read that statement, I assumed I would be a great candidate. I had received a few other acceptances at this point, and had done fairly well in my challenges with other schools. But unfortunately I had to reschedule due to being sick for 4 days and underestimating how long my recovery would take, leaving me no time to prep for the technical interview. Considering the fact that I wasn’t prepared for the interview, I disclosed this to my interviewer. I was able to pair program my way through the challenge, however they decided not to accept me to the program.
Left on the Table
At the beginning of my search App Academy was my #1 school based on all of the online reviews I read. Ironically, after applying, I received the offer to taking the first coding challenge and never took it! I actually psyched myself out, due to my desire to do as well as possible, and continually put it off while trying to learn more Ruby before taking the challenges.
When you apply to HR, they give you a choice to have your application submitted to them or one of their sister schools (Maker Square or their newest school Telegraph Academy). After reviewing more information online, I chose to apply to TA.
I applied to Recurse Center and Launch Academy even though they're out-of-state because of their reputation amongst developers. My thought was that if I got into one of them, it would make sense to consider it.
Just in case, I applied to these three online schools, but knew that I would learn best in an in-class environment, and thus chose not to move forward with the interview process.
After sending in applications, both of these schools were non-responsive, leading me to believe that they were no longer operating or for some reason chose not to answer my emails.
Step 4: Decision on Coding House
The most important piece of advice I could give any potential coding bootcamp student on making their final decision is to spend as much time on the previous steps outlined above as they can, and to try to make the decision that best suits their needs. Your final decision may be based on learning style, financial situation, schedule or geographical circumstances. The more schools you apply to, the more choices you will have in the end. I chose the Coding House because it consistently ranked high on all of my personal metrics.
First, it was the only school in my search that teaches the skill of learning programming languages. In a sense, teaching autodidactism. This is important to me, as I will no doubt find myself in a position with a prospective employer that wants me to expand my knowledge of a particular language or learn a new language to obtain a job. With the skills I learn at the Coding House, I will be confident in my ability to pick up new languages efficiently.
Third, the full immersion experience at the Coding House provides coders with the chance to live in a community with other students, TAs and Instructors (and we even have a mascot dog, Charlie!) so that your focus is on coding around the clock. The house itself is as comfortable as possible (food, board, etc. is all included in the tuition) so that you can focus on coding. This translates to finishing in two months instead of three or more.
And lastly, I chose the Coding House because, through my discussions with the owner Nick, I found him to be a guy that I could relate to on a personal level. He answered my hard questions with honesty and openness, welcomed constructive criticism, and vowed to do whatever it took to grow his school’s quality.
Step 6: Pre-Work
This was said to me many times by staffers at Coding House, and I will repeat it for everyone reading this: do the pre-work, and then do it again. The more you familiarize yourself with the assignments that are given to you before you get to bootcamp, the more likely you are to understand the instructor on Day 1. Also, if they recommend taking a course on Git/GitHub as part of your pre-work, do that exercise three times! And find some other online sources to learn more about Git/GitHub. It’s that important.
Step 7: Bootcamp
Congratulations, you made it! It’s time to update your social media bios to ‘coding student!’ Prepare your mind to soak up knowledge like never before. Each bootcamp will vary, so try to follow the instructions of the course to the best of your ability. Be sure to send a thank you email to all of the bootcamps on your list. Be courteous, since we are all in the same industry, and they will be valuable professional contacts going forward.
Your mileage will vary in your journey to becoming a software programmer. If you begin by doing adequate research and casting your net wide, you are more likely to make the best choice of bootcamp. For the most part, every bootcamp I researched is solid in terms of producing quality entry-level engineers. Here on Course Report, you will find most of the research you need to start or continue your journey. If I can be of some assistance to you in the process, please feel free to reach out to me below. Good luck and code on!